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Sleep and arthritis

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How can disturbed sleep affect my health?

Arthritis can affect the quality of your sleep, which can affect your general health. Changes in your sleep pattern can alter some of your body's functions, which can cause:

  • fatigue
  • stomach problems
  • headaches
  • poor concentration.
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What is a normal sleep pattern?

Most people need 7–8 hours of sleep a night.

There are various stages of sleep, and the pattern of your brainwaves differs in each stage. These stages are repeated several times during the night.

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What kind of sleep problems are there?

Common sleep problems include:

  • difficulty getting to sleep
  • waking up often during the night or too early in the morning
  • non-restorative sleep (when you don’t feel refreshed when you wake up).

A severely disturbed sleep pattern over a long period can cause increased muscle tension and is linked with muscular pain. It often leads to anxiety or depression, or both.

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Sleep and pain

Sleep disturbance may lower your pain threshold, which may make the symptoms of arthritis worse.

It's possible that symptoms of fibromyalgia are caused by sleep disturbance.

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How can arthritis affect my sleep?

All forms of arthritis can affect the way you sleep, especially if your condition causes pain that makes it uncomfortable to lie down.

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Are restless legs affecting my sleep?

Many people find their sleep is disturbed by restless legs syndrome (RLS) or periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). They're quite often linked with long-term conditions and can also occur as a side-effect of some medications.

You should see your doctor if restless legs are affecting your sleep.

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Snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome

Snoring is common and can be a symptom or a cause of sleep disturbance.

Severe snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, which can cause long-term (chronic) fatigue.

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How can I improve my sleep?

Keeping a diary of your sleep pattern can help you spot things that affect your sleep. Get into a relaxing routine and think about changing your mattress or pillows if needed.

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Treatments for sleep problems

If your sleep problems carry on, speak to your healthcare professional who'll be able to offer advice and prescribe medication if you need  it. There are four main groups of drugs that can be helpful:

Quinine sulphate may be useful if painful muscle cramps stop you sleeping.

Cognitive behavioural therapy and self-management groups may also help you tackle sleep problems.

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Research and new developments into sleep and arthritis

A number of studies have investigated cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a treatment for sleep problems in people with chronic pain.

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